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This is an evolving website and Table Tennis Community. Your suggestions are welcome.

Want a daily injection of Table Tennis? Come read the Larry Hodges Blog! (Entries go up by noon, Mon-Fri; see link on left.) Feel free to comment!

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Want to Learn? Read the Tip of the Week, study videos, read articles, or find just about any other table tennis coaching site from the menu links. If you know of one, please let us know so we can add it.

Want to Learn more directly? There are two options. See the Video Coaching link for info on having your game analyzed via video. See the Clinics link for info on arranging a clinic in your area, or finding ones that are already scheduled.

If you have any questions, feel free to email, post a note on the forum, or comment on my blog entries.

-Larry Hodges, Director, TableTennisCoaching.com

Member, USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame & USATT Certified National Coach
Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center

Recent TableTennisCoaching.com blog posts

Friday, April 22, 2011 - 11:34
April 22, 2011

How to practice the loop against backspin

Unless you have a chopper or a coach feeding multiball handy, it's not easy getting practice looping against backspin. You could use a robot, but then you aren't reading the spin off a paddle. You could just do it in games or drills, but then you only get one loop, and then the rally is into topspin.

A good way to practice looping against backspin over and over is to do the loop-chop drill. It's simple: You serve backspin; your partner pushes it back; you loop (forehand or backhand); your partner blocks (not too hard); you chop it back; your partner pushes it back; and you loop, and the cycle repeats. It's best to do it all crosscourt or all down-the line. I demonstrated this drill this morning at our Spring Break Camp (using the backhand loop and backhand chop), and several were trying it out later.

USATT Coaching, Club, and Editorial Committees

It's official! I've been on the USATT Editorial Board for a while; now I'm back on the USATT Coaching and Club Committees. I actually chaired both back in the 1990s. Coaching Chair Richard McAfee...




Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 11:43
April 21, 2011

Why forehands are better than backhands

A nine-year-old student of mine named Sam said one of the funniest - and most profound? - things I've heard in a while. He's only had a few lessons, and is just starting to really hit forehands. But he has trouble with the backhand. After hitting forehands, I said let's do backhands, and he looked a bit glum. I asked why. He said, "Forehands are like an adventure. Backhands are like I'm at home watching TV."

Receive practice

I was watching one of our top cadet players practice with one of our top coaches. Near the end of the session the coach began giving his best serves, challenging the cadet to return them effectively, with the coach looking to follow up each serve with an attack. The coach mostly dominated for the simple fact that the cadet rarely got to face such serves and follow-ups. I went out on the court and suggested they do this from now on for at least half their sessions, and the coach agreed. This cadet is going to be very good! Serve & receive are the most under-practiced aspects of the game.

Robots catching and...




Wednesday, April 20, 2011 - 12:25
April 20, 2011

Counterlooping

This afternoon during our Spring Break Camp here at MDTTC, I spent some time counterlooping with Nathan Hsu, one of our top cadet players. (Age 14, rated 2239.) During the ITTF Coaching seminar I taught this past weekend I talked about counterlooping, and yesterday I wrote about how my counterlooping had improved as a result. But at age 51, I'm still much slower and stiffer than I used to be, and I was a bit reticent about wasting Nathan's time counterlooping, since it's a strength of his, and I wasn't sure if I could keep up. Lo and behold, I was able to stay with him - barely! But I also realized everything had to be just right for me to do so. As we started, I had to really focus on my hand and racket position, start my stroke earlier than I normally would, take a slightly longer swing than normal, and take the ball at just the right spot (just after top of bounce so the ball couldn't jump away from me). Once the counterloops starting hitting, I basically blanked my mind out and just let the shots happen. Mentally, I was just an observer. When I tried to intervene and get involved, I'd miss; when I sat back...




Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 12:08
April 19, 2011

Knocking off cups and other table tennis games

We're about to start day two of our five-day Spring Break Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Guess what's one of the most popular games at our training camps? Knocking off cups. We do this with the younger kids near the end of a session. I put ten plastic cups on the table like bowling pins. I feed ten balls to each kid (multi-ball style), and see how many they can knock off. Then we get creative with the placement of the cups. An alternate version is the kids line up and each gets two shots and then rotate, and we see how long it takes for them, as a team, to knock off all the cups. We also do this with my bottled drink - whenever someone hits the bottle, I have to take a sip. (I do my best to convince them it's squeezed worm juice.)

We also play Brazilian Teams. We put them into teams of 3-5. One player from each team goes to the table and plays a point. The winner stays, while the loser goes to the end of the line for his team, and the next player goes to the table. The new player always serves. Games are usually to 41. If there are players who are much stronger than the...




Monday, April 18, 2011 - 12:35
April 18, 2011

ITTF Coaching Seminar - Part 1

This weekend was the first half of the ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running at Maryland Table Tennis Center, Sat & Sun from 9-4. (Part 2 is next weekend, same times.) It's been great fun so far - easier, in fact, than a regular table tennis camp where I would spend half my time feeding multiball. Here all I had to do was spend half the time talking, and the other half walking around and coaching the coaches in the current activity. When you've spent 35 years playing a sport, have coached it for 30 years, and have run 120+ five-day training camps and countless other group and private sessions, it's not hard to know what to say - the hard part is deciding what not to say.

I've learned a lot as well just from thinking about and preparing for the seminar. In practice matches tonight afterwards, I remembered my lecture on counterlooping with sidespin by hooking the ball rather than taking on the incoming topspin directly - and realized I'd been doing that too often. Bingo, my counterloop came alive when needed. Even my forehand flip has gotten better just from thinking about and...




Friday, April 15, 2011 - 13:06
April 15, 2011

Preparations for ITTF Coaching Seminar

I've been run ragged this past week preparing for the ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running the next two weekends. I won't bore you with the details.

As I'm going over the various techniques we'll be going over its bringing back memories of all sorts of coaching examples I've experienced over the past 35 years. I was thinking of creating a list of them to use in the seminar, but decided it's not necessary; they will pop into my head as we get to each item. For example, I know that when we talk about a coach analyzing a player's needs or the forehand follow-through, I'll remember the 5'2" coach trying to get a 6'10" player to follow through with a "salute" stroke, with the racket going to the forehead. It was both hilarious and sad. (I later worked with the 6'10" player, where I "allowed" him to have a more normal follow through to his chest, and in about a year he went from 1300 to 1800.) I know that when we go over common problems for any technique...




Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 13:03
April 14, 2011

What are your goals?

Some people want to be champions, whether it be basement, school, club, state, country, or world champion. Others want to be the best they can be. Others have a specific level in mind, such as a certain rating. Others want to play the sport properly. Others just want to play for fun. How about you? It's hard to reach a goal without having a goal.

I've had numerous goals. Early on it was to reach a 1500 rating, later 1800, 2000, then 2100, then 2200, etc. I wanted to be the best at my club - took about three years to do that. I wanted to be the best in my state, and I eventually was state champion (at different times) in three states. I wanted to be national champion, and though I didn't do it in Men's Singles with sponge, I was National Collegiate Doubles and Team Champion, and U.S. National and U.S. Open Hardbat Champion! (Also 4-time Over 40 Hardbat and 10-time Hardbat Doubles Champion.)

As the years went by, just playing the sport properly became more of a goal. Early on my best shot was my forehand smash, but I wanted to be a looper with a big forehand loop, like most of the best players in...




Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 12:57
April 13, 2011

Fast or Slow Blade?

Someone posted that his coach recommends the use of slower blades, that he says, "a fast blade is like a drug because you can hit great shots with it and when struck correctly they also feel wonderful but the speed of a fast blade hurts your all around game (you just don't notice it because you are high on the power shots it makes happen)."

I understand why your coach recommends slower blades, and partially agree with him. However, a slower blade makes a player stroke the ball more to get the same speed as a faster blade, and so you have to do more work in the same amount of time as a player with a faster blade. And so the player with the faster blade will generally be able to rally at a faster pace with more consistency. The advantage of a slower blade is that because it makes you stroke the ball more, beginning/intermediate players develop their strokes a bit more. But beyond that, you generally need a faster blade. HOWEVER - I agree with your coach that many or most players use too fast a blade. If the blade's too fast, you can't control it, and you have less spin. So you need a balance. My...




Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 13:15
April 12, 2011

Chinese vs. European Forehand Loop

David Bernstein emailed me the following question: "In your TTC blog a little while back you mentioned in passing that a Chinese forehand loop is more like a modified drive or smash while a European (or anywhere else) loop is something very different. Could you possibly expound on that a little more in another blog entry?  I want to link to it from my blog (where I'm experimenting with a Chinese style forehand)."

In some ways this might be the biggest difference in Chinese versus European coaching, especially for coaches from the 1990s and before. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but in general, here is how they teach it differently. (And I'm going to use the words "tend" and "in general" a lot here.)

Chinese coaches tend to spend a lot of time with beginning juniors stressing the forehand drive and smash. Many of their juniors start out as hitters because of this. However, when they are advanced enough, they teach the loop, with the idea that it is just an extension of the regular forehand. Against backspin, you just extend the arm down and drop the racket...




Monday, April 11, 2011 - 14:03
April 11, 2011

Control the receive

I was watching some beginning/intermediate players in a tournament yesterday and noticed a huge number of points decided by the receive. Either the receiver was way too aggressive (and so made mistake after mistake) or was way too passive (and kept pushing topspin and sidespin serves off the end or side). While it's usually best to learn to play aggressive, receive is all about control, about consistently taking the initiative away from the server. If you can force a neutral rally on the opponent's serve and win half the points, you should win the match when you serve.

How do you control the serve? At the beginning/intermediate level you should focus on one thing only: is the serve backspin or not backspin? If the serve has backspin (including sidespin backspin), then you mostly push it back, though you can also loop it. If it's not backspin (i.e. sidespin or topspin serves), then you use your regular topspin shots, i.e. backhand and forehand drives (or perhaps loops, if you can do that). No-spin serves you can handle either way.

At higher levels you might want to do more with the receive, but...